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The Legend of Caparica (Rich Cape)

 

Many, many years ago, when Caparica was nothing more than a wild place, with a couple of houses, a very pretty but poorly dressed child appeared; nobody knew from where she came.

An old man from the Parish of Our Lady of the Hill took care of the girl who knew nothing about her origin, nothing but the certainty that she owns the cape she worn. The old man noticed that, despite being worned-out, it was a high quality cape, probably belonging to a rich or even noble family.

Many years passed and the little girl became a beautiful young lady. Then, one day, the old man feeling himself at death's door asked her, as his last will, if she could cover him with her cape, keeping him warm in his last moments of life, saying to her that it was a rich cape. The young lady respected his will and, when the old man died, she gathered the few coins left to give him a respectable grave. Many days without food she endured and many nights without sleep, but she had a clear conscience of having returned, both in life and after death, the goodness of the old man.

The young lady remained in the hovel and wore her years alone. The people that considered her strange and called her witch, minded that she had the ritual of climbing the hill and, in a ravish mood, prayed God asking him that, after her death, the Divine Cape of Our Lady of the Hill may cover with His blessing all those that revered Her in that place. After these words were spoken she took her old cape and raised it to heaven.

This strange behaviour came to the knowledge of the king, who asked her to his presence, carrying the famous cape that everybody claimed to be spellbound. The old lady told the king that it had nothing to do with sorcery, praying to God was all she did.

Impressed, the king send her away with a purse full of money and the old lady continued her lonesome existence till the day she dyed. Near the body of the Old Cape’s Woman, as people called her, a letter was found addressed to the king. The Old Cape’s Woman discovered, just before her death, that the cape indeed a rich cape because she found a truly richness hidden in its lining. This treasure – she asked the king – should be used to transform this coast in a land of dream and marvel with health and joy for all.

So, the legend says, Costa de Caparica (Rich Cape’s Coast) emerged, honouring a little girl of unknown origin who had, as sole possession, an old cape that was, after all, a rich cape.

Translation: José Patrão (from the portuguese original © 2001 Porto Editora, Lda.)

 

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